This autumn I’ll celebrate my 7 year podcasting anniversary. I started in October of 2006 with a Heroes podcast. The TV show jumped the shark before the podcast did. Three more entertainment podcasts later, I turned my podcasting theme to fiction. Since then, I’ve podcast a novel and am in the fourth year of podcasting short stories. I got into the whole podcasting fiction area after being introduced to Podiobooks. At that point I spent a lot of time listening to free fiction. The site has grown, I have grown into it and one day, I became a Podiobooks author myself.
When you get into a hobby as time-consuming as podcasting and writing, at some point you ask yourself if people make money from it. I think it was during listening to the old PotterCast, I first heard ads on a podcast. Obviously they had thousands of listeners, so that somehow made sense. Although much can be done for free or cheap, they did an amazing job and I thought ads would be a good idea to finance that. Of course, I thought myself how awesome it would be to be paid for podcasting. I haven’t entirely given that up yet, but more about that later.
Turning the focus onto writing, there were several people who started off as Podiobooks authors and ended up published authors. Some were able to continue to podcast, but most had to sign all the rights over. Self-publishing made this question superfluous. Suddenly you were completely flexible. You could podcast your book and give that away for free and sell the eBook at the same time. Now I thought more about money. Was this possible for me too?
I never wanted to turn it into a living – neither podcasting nor writing – but some extra money is always appreciated. But there are many people who did and I got to watch them through the ups and downs. Rising stars, struggling artists, passionate nut-cases, or all of the above.
Money Money Money…
Sometime last year, I think, JC Hutchins was the first to stop. Stop giving away his works for free as podcasts. It didn’t work for him, the advertisement and exposure wasn’t worth it. He got a lot of complaints, the fans who were used to getting his stories free were disappointed. Some in the community felt it was turning away from a higher goal. Yesterday, Jake Bible announced he was going to leave podcasting. This time, people were still disappointing but more understanding. Before it was easier to blame a big publisher for having to stop podcasting than justifying taking the step yourself.
Before I get into my take on it, I suggest you also read John Mierau‘s blogpost about podcasting, writing and the suffering behind it.
What about me? First and foremost, podcasting is a hobby for me and so is writing. At the same time, podcasting is a means of getting my writing ‘out there’. Now, would I love to get money for it? Of course. Who wouldn’t want to get paid for their hobby? Also, many people want to or try to turn their hobby into a job.
BUT: Pure hobbies don’t usually bring you money. They cost money.
So how is podcasting / writing different? Why do we expect money out of those – or even just hope for money out of it? No one thinks you can make money with hiking (unless you turn it into a job) or other sports. Not everyone who loves travelling thinks they can make money with their travel blog. Do we aim for it because we’ve seen it happen so often? Did we lose sight of why we did it in the first place?
Hobbies should be fun. Trying (or even struggling) to make money out of your hobby seldom is.
I appreciate every sale my book gets, every donation on Podiobooks. I would still podcast if it didn’t bring in a single dime. At the same time, I’ll be honest and say at the moment where it brings in the kind of money where I can get something I couldn’t otherwise, I’d be more motivated to write more, podcast more. Money is a good motivator, of course! But few people can live with it being the only one. I don’t know if my next book will just be an eBook or a podcast as well – it’ll be a question of time too. Or maybe I will just try something completely different. I am open to new ideas and really have nothing to lose either way.
Why I do it
I need to get back to why I do it. The fun. Whatever else comes out of it is a bonus.
If you want to make it your living, it’s just as legit as wanting to make hiking a living, or photography, or any hobby one can have. When you go down that road, of course you will have to make tough decisions to make it worthwhile and earn an actual living out of it, not just a few coins in the piggy bank.
Unless I get bored, I lose my motivation or run out of stories or ideas about things I’d like to podcast about, I don’t see a reason why I would stop podcasting. At the same time I’ll have to honestly say that no imaginable amount of money coming in from podcasting/writing would make me want to stop being a lawyer. That doesn’t make me stop thinking about podcasts though – after all, I’m writing my doctoral thesis about legal information requirements for podcasts in EU law ;)…
I will support those who want to make a living and those who do it as a hobby. I support the stories I love and the people I admire.
As John Mireau said in his blogpost, nothing shows more support than buying someone’s product. Spreading the word, reviewing, shouting it from the rooftops is super too, but one can formidably argue over how much that translates into sales. I don’t understand enough about stats or economics to have much of an opinion. Yes, there are more downloads of my book as free podcast than there are sales. If the ratio is normal or not, I don’t know. Maybe some marketing stats business person can answer me that, I don’t know. I also won’t enter into the “to kickstarter or not to kickstarter” discussion.
Support the artists however seems right to you, however much money or time you can afford or want to spend on someone.
Think about the small, local shop around the corner or the craftspeople you see at a market…
And then support the things you enjoy to get people to make more of them! :)